Schizophrenia Society

Original Poem and Stop Smoking Blog

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Please scroll past today’s poem for today’s blog entry about smoking and mental health!

Labor Day 2017

By: Leif Gregersen

 

Children laughing, shouting

Full of the joy of anticipation

For the good times and the bad

Of a fresh new school year

 

Now nothing more can hold back

The days of frost and snow

And those short days of precious little sun

 

Will Halloween come first

Or the biting winds of winter

As we cram in more learning

Into the minds of our little ones

 

When this time of year comes upon me

I think back to endless games of football

Played with no hint of coaches, pads or refs

Those were the truly special times the ones that I cherish

Playing, laughing with no one to impress

 

Later on a game that I called gauntlet

Dashing in front of snowball throwers

Lined up to put me to the test

 

So much time has passed now

Since those simple happy times

Two parents by my side at every turn

 

I wish that for just one moment

I could speak through the years passed

To all my childhood friends

 

I would tell them all the same thing

Make the most of every moment

Cherish all your loves and friends and family

And never act as though they owe you a debt

 

Time will pass you all by so quickly

Love with time will fade

Take in all the happiness

And sunshine you can get

 

Hello, dear readers! Well, much has been going on but I have mostly been stagnating in my apartment. There have been serious wildfires in British Columbia, the Province next door to Alberta where I live and the smoke has been hard on me. Maybe this is a good time to explain why the smoke is so hard on me and relate it to a mental health issue. I used to be a smoker. I smoked for 18 years, age 14 to 32. I can tell you exactly why I started, there were two events, one where my Dad asked me if I would like to try his cigarette and when I went to take a drag, he put his finger in my mouth and everyone laughed at me, and another time when I was at a Cadet dance with some friends and a guy pulled out some cigarettes and when I took a drag it was for real and I coughed my lungs out. I had a hard time dealing with people laughing at me and so I decided I was going to practise smoking so no one ever laughed at me again. This wasn’t that big of a deal for a while, but towards my last couple of years of smoking I had to buy the cheapest of the cheap brands of tobacco and I had a hard time controlling my smoking. This was where I think the real damage occurred to my lungs. I have had two lung tests, and they both say I have the lungs of a 74 year-old man. The reason I bring this up is because people with mental illnesses are one of the biggest consumer groups for tobacco, and no one wants to admit it. Tobacco soothes us, and nicotine actually helps regulate chemicals in our brains that cause things like delusions, hallucinations and such. I can remember being in the hospital having severe problems, and after I had two or three cigarettes I would start to feel a lot better. My lungs didn’t feel better, but my mental health started to right itself which seemed more important at the time. So basically, if you smoke and you have a mental illness, I suggest you try and quit. Some of the methods I have found helpful in keeping my mind of smoking are: nicotine patches, used in combination with nicotine gum (make sure to ask your pharmacist how to use these in combination and correctly) drinking a lot of water, switching from coffee to tea, going for long walks or even runs if you can. There is also a method that I am not really qualified to give advice on, but when I was younger and I tried to quit smoking what I did was every time I thought about cigarettes I would try and think about something that had more power over me. At the time I thought of a young woman I had been infatuated with, and it worked for two weeks with no other forms of help or support.

Anyhow, I hope some of this helps you. Thanks for reading today’s blog and above all, stay healthy!!

 

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Do Bad Memories of Your Mental Illness Haunt You?

 

click here to find a therapist near you

Since they were so popular, I thought I would put links to my two television appearances at the start of this blog:

Click here to see me in an older TV Interview

Click here to see me in a short clip that ran this week

So, I thought I would talk a little about something that maybe doesn’t get a lot of attention but I feel can be extremely important in the lives of a person with a mental illness. I don’t know if anyone  has read my book “Through the Withering Storm” but in it I discuss being a teenager and going through a series of humiliations and negative events that still to this day bother me. One of the things I recall the most was growing up in a house with secrets. It was a secret that my Mom had a mental illness, it was  a secret that my Dad drank quite a bit. It was a secret that my Dad and I fought all the time. It scared me a lot that any of these secrets would come out to the public. None of them ever really did, but I think sometimes that living in that way, inundated with traumatizing events warped me as a youngster. But that wasn’t all. As I first became mentally ill during my teen years, I did a lot of things that I am extremely ashamed of, so ashamed that sometimes my memories can almost paralyze me. For example, there was a time when I was very out of it when I thought I was being told to get in a car with some strange people and I must have scared the hell out of the young girl I sat next to. Once I realized what was happening, I had enough sense to leave the vehicle, but I can’t imagine the fear I must have put this young woman through.

I could dwell on things I did when I was mentally ill all day, but I would rather try and offer my readers some kind of solution to thoughts like this. I am reminded of when I was 17 and there weren’t a lot of ways out there to quit smoking. Smoking wasn’t nearly as taboo as it is now but I wanted to quit. I decided I needed to train my mind to resist the power of smoking. I figured that if I could somehow make myself think of something that moved me more than smoking did, I would be able to quit. Basically what I did was, whenever I had a strong urge to smoke a cigarette, I would instead think about an attractive girl I went to school with and the images of her beauty took over (this specific example may only work for teenagers!) Now, later in life when I want to clear my head of negative thoughts, I have found a somewhat similar but very effective method of quelling thoughts about my past that are extremely negative and even debilitating. I have learned to meditate. It may seem funny that one would have to learn something like that, but there is a lot of learning an effort one must put into meditating to be able to clear their minds and also be able to control their thoughts when they are not meditating. I started out doing a lot of reading on the subject, which will only take you so far. Then I went to an actual Tibetan Monk in Edmonton and studied under him for a few months.

If I were to just cut things down to basics, Meditation is about trying to clear your mind, to declutter your thought process, which you train yourself to do, and to focus on something like your breathing to keep yourself centred. I have a virtual reality headset that I bought a meditation app for and it is amazing. You choose the relaxing setting and what type of meditation you want (I always choose Zen Meditation) and a narrator will talk you through a session of clearing your mind, breathing, focusing your thoughts. I even have an app on my watch that I often use to meditate for five minutes or so when it is convenient. When you can learn to control your thoughts, declutter your mind, you will be able to set aside negative thoughts and memories quite easily. I will try and write more on this topic in the next little while, for now, thanks for making yesterday a new record of views and all the best to you my dear readers!

 

 

What Can Be Done When You Feel Yourself On the Manic Side of Bipolar

 

click here to find out more about what is bipolar depression

 

“Inching Back To Sane” now available here in all ebook formats

Nice Photo If I do Say So Myself

Hello, dear readers! Well, things seem to be going along swimmingly for me and I have to say that it worries me. The reason it does is because my illness is half bipolar disorder. This means I have to deal with mood swings often. It seems I was in a down mood for a while and now I am facing the opposite. I started out my day with a 5km walk to the swimming pool, swam for around half an hour to work my upper body, then walked 5km back home in the hot sun. This sounds great, but I think perhaps something to do with the sun and all the activity I engaged in, possibly even a bit of heat stroke could have caused me to mood swing into a mania or manic state. It is now 10:00pm and I don’t feel sore or tired at all.

It can be a dangerous thing to go manic. I want to try and explain here a bit about what it means to go into this state. First of all, though it seems like having energy to go on working or writing or doing whatever you enjoy doing for days on end without rest would be good, but it can be very dangerous and can cause damage to your mind (end you up in psychosis) relationships (drive people away with bizarre behaviour and non-stop talking) and body (push yourself way past safe limits, take risks like driving too fast or even abuse drugs and alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate).

One thing you always have to be mindful of when you have a mental illness is not just getting your medications on time, but getting your sleep on time. Right now I don’t see myself as being tired enough to lay down for a long while. As a small measure to help the situation, I didn’t have any tea or coffee for a few hours already and I am considering taking some melatonin (a naturally occurring sleep hormone that I cleared with my psychiatrist to take when I need sleep). I often worry about doing this because if I am manic enough I won’t stay in bed and will get up to work later on tonight. One of the things that has also caused me to go into this high-energy phase is that I have been having a lot of great news come in about a number of different parts of my life and my work life. Aside from keeping the option open of taking something for sleep, I spent a good deal of time today just meditating. I have a virtual reality headset I use and I go into a mountain setting and put on music and guided zen meditation to use my mind and body’s natural willpower to lower myself out of the manic state.

I have written a lot today, so I will just try and finish up with one or two quick things that I hope will be useful to people who follow this blog. What I want to caution people about is that sleeping medication, even melatonin has a lot of side effects. One of them is that you may sleep a certain number of hours, but it may not be the quality restful sleep you seek. Sleep aids of many kinds can block out REM sleep or even make it so you don’t dream. This can be helpful if you have bad dreams that keep you up, but detrimental to your mental well being. The other factor is that a very common side effect of sleep medication is losing memory and experiencing diminished short term memory. There is also the serious problem of addiction to sleep medications, and developing a tolerance to them. I don’t know any of the details, but there has been more than a few celebrities who basically had a key to a pharmacist’s inventory (by way of doctors that would prescribe anything for them) who died. I am not 100% sure, but I know Elvis was on a number of medications and had been abusing pills for a while when he was found floating face down in his own toilet, and Michael Jackson and Prince were also mixing medications when they died. I am sure there are many more than just these cases, and that death by dangerous legal pill mixtures is very common, I just wanted to cite those examples because everyone knows them.

So, I leave you with that dear readers. Please feel free to contact me or leave a comment and promise to do my best to respond.

Riding the Wave–“But I get the most work done when I’m manic!”

 

Click this link and find out here if a home based counsellor is able to help you

best-full-moon-ever

            Shot of the moon using my Nikon D3300 and a Nikkor 55-300mm lens, touched up with Lightroom by Adobe

Mania, depression, and delusions. What can pills help, and what do you need to watch out for yourself? (poem to follow this blog)

https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/therapy/how-do-i-find-a-therapist-near-me/

So it is the worst time of the year for just about everyone. Kids have to go back to school after just a 2-week taste of freedom and being lavished with candy canes and gifts by family. People who work in sectors like trades find that most of their customers spent all their money on Christmas and there is a big slowdown. The worst part? Suicides. Some may think that Christmas is the worst for suicides, but I have uncovered some information that may prove that January is the worst month for suicides. I can see why. I have been doing well in my recovery from mental illness for some time now, I was able to take some college courses, I took a University course last year and actually finished it. I have set up jobs and public appearances and have been working for the schizophrenia society. I sometimes wonder if I’ve been a little manic. I haven’t had delusional thinking much, but I have been finding myself increasingly troubled with sleeping memories of being in the hospital, likely because I now live in an apartment building rather than a house and I never liked the people who used to come around in the hospital and shine a flashlight in your eyes to see if you were sleeping. The flashlight almost always woke me up.

What I have been noticing is the early signs of depression creeping up. I don’t know about other places, but where I live there is only about 8 hours of daylight this time of year and sometimes lately if I have nothing to do or if it is oppressively cold outside (as it almost always is, -22 right now) I will sleep all night and then sleep all day. Then, at times like this when by all rights I should be going back to sleep, I get up and work on my writing. Today I was taken away from this pursuit because I learned the moon was full, and so I hauled out my camera and took the above picture among others. I don’t really know what to do about my depression. It has to do with a lot of things I am sure, including the diminished sunlight, the fact that I have a lot of time on my hands and that I have been isolating myself too much. My doctor has offered to increase my anti-depressant and I think I will call tomorrow to get an appointment and do so.

I am also thinking that with everything that has been happening, it is time to bite the bullet and go and see a counselor. For months I have been looking at the wall in the office of my apartment building and there is a list of free counselors there. What it all comes down to is taking care of myself. If I leave things too long I will pay the consequences. Just like needing a dentist or an optometrist, and going to them before you are in pain or blind, I really want to try therapy. From what I understand, therapy can be very effective for people with mental illnesses, though it is important that one stabilize their condition with proper medication before going to it. One of the things that makes me feel worried about what has been going on is my departed mother. When she died at 63 she still hadn’t gotten a handle on her mental illness and it was very severe. My mom had done so many things, from being a credit union manager to nearly getting a full scholarship to University. She tried so very hard and kept getting beaten down by one thing or another. I can see my mom in my brother and sister and myself in many ways. It really was a sad thing that her life had gone so poorly for her, and even at the end she struggled with her medications, moods and psychosis. One of the things she did back then was to see a psychologist and I learned to my surprise that she often talked about her mother, who had passed away about 20 years before my mom did. In many ways I feel pretty lucky that there are medications that help me deal with my own psychosis and mood swings, and do a pretty good job of it. With that, I will leave you with a poem and wish you all another week or so of good health and happiness, which is about the amount of time that will pass before I blog again.

 

Last Best Chance

My love I am always thinking of you

And how I have feelings that are true

I just don’t know how to say them out loud

 

In the dark deep night my mind begins to race

As I worry, fret and pace

Nothing seems to please me anymore

 

The first time I ever saw your face

Even my loneliness could never erase

The loveliness I saw deep inside your eyes

 

Each day that passes finds me here

With no friends or lover near

The only one I have to blame is me

 

There were many loves in my younger days

And I pursued them in my own weird ways

Never understanding I could ever end up alone

 

Plus I had so many true, close friends

On whom I always thought I could depend

But hard times took most of those away from me

 

I’ve been desperate and depressed

Sought forgiveness and went to be blessed

But found out it came down to not loving you enough

 

From the first day my life had begun

Fate made you the only one

I could have ever asked to be my true soul mate

 

So I ask if you could read these simple words

And not feel sad, scared or disturbed

I know you care for me just as I care for you

 

Things happen to each and every one

But you were always so loving and fun

Please forgive and take me in your arms again

 

I won’t make any promises to you

Except that each day will feel happy, fresh and new

Please tell me if you will, I just can’t wait

 

Too many years have already passed

You’ve always been the first and last

Give your love to me we’re each other’s last best chance

 

Heading Into Fall Season

DSCF5596Here is a photo of our wonderful Edmonton award-winning downtown library where I love to go

Well, today was a pretty good one.  I had to go and give a presentation at a high school out of town for the Schizophrenia Society, which is my new job.  I am really enjoying this work, I start out by doing a slide and video presentation with facts and other information about mental illness and then I give a talk about my own experiences.  I am getting to go to so many fascinating places and meet so many people that I just love this new job.  A couple of weeks ago I went to the University and spoke before a class of 230 students.  Before that, I presented my story and answered questions to a group of all kinds of medical students.  Last night (Thursday) was especially great because I took a road trip to a town called Barrhead, which was a really enjoyable time with my friend Glen who also presents for the society and we spoke to a small class of adults.  They were incredibly responsive and asked all kinds of questions and then afterwards despite the small size of the class I ended up selling six of my books, which covers my expenses for quite a while, not to mention the wage I get.  The other week was also pretty cool as I spoke to a class of police sciences students who also got really involved and the professor of the class was so appreciative she gave us a cool little leather journal with the University’s logo on it, plus a coffee mug for taking in a car or on the bus, PLUS a $25 Tim Horton’s gift card.  I have really been learning so much about myself and my illness doing this, along with other things I have been doing.  One of the things I have learned about my illness is that I in fact did have some serious psychosis (or delusional thinking)  I didn’t so much hear voices as there were ‘invasive thoughts’ that just kind of popped into my head, almost the way thoughts come into your head through reading but I wasn’t reading anything.  You really have to be a bookworm to hallucinate reading.  I am so glad I am now in recovery from my illness, but I want to help others get to this point if I can.  The Schizophrenia society is giving me one way to do that, but I am hoping to do more.  In January there is a class being taught that I qualify for that will give me a job helping people develop a ‘wellness recovery action plan’ or wrap.  I have already bought some books from them online and I am really looking forward to facilitating classes.  There is also another opportunity coming up where I could go around giving peer support to people with mental health issues, through the Alberta Government.  This would be a part-time job and what I am kind of hoping is that I can do these things for a few years and build my knowledge and experience and then at some point write my own mental health recovery manual, which is basically my end goal.  Sometimes it does worry me that I will one day become sick again, and that is a very real possibility, but I have a lot more people helping me and I have a lot more resources and knowledge that will hopefully prevent that from happening.  It really is scary to think of me back in my late teens, living far away in Vancouver with no one who understood me or my illness, sick and starving, barely able to function.  I really have come a long way.

Anyhow, I just wanted to post another poem below but talk about it a bit at first.  When I was in high school, there was this really beautiful young woman who was in a lot of my classes and also worked at two of the places I had after school jobs at.  One time after I got out of the hospital for the second or third time I ran into her and she was really nice to me and offered to help me out of my situation.  A number of circumstances made it impossible for me to accept her offer, but then a couple of years later after being in Vancouver I tried to contact her and she literally threatened to call the police on me.  This really hurt, but it made sense, we had never really had a relationship but it is one of those things that stay in your thoughts for a long time.  I don’t really have any feelings for her anymore, I just kind of wish sometimes that my fairy tale life were true and it really hurt when I was basically warned not to attend my high school reunion, something I had been really looking forward to.  Anyhow, I hope the poem below speaks for itself,  thanks Dear readers for following my work.

 

Tracy

 

If I thought a poem

Could have won your heart

I would have written you a thousand

Or more

 

Way back when we were kids

I thought maybe you were the prettiest girl I had ever seen

Even though you had an ugly side

When you talked about people less fortunate

 

All that time back

I really thought you loved me

Though I never felt I deserved it

Because of who I was and how messed up

I had become when our paths finally crossed

 

Maybe I was wrong

Horribly, horribly wrong

But sometimes I wonder if the hatred you seemed to show

Was from a woman spurned

 

Over time I came to accept

That really you were never mine

Despite the possibility

Of a schoolgirl crush

 

I found someone else eventually

But it never lasted

And always in the back of my mind

I imagined you as the perfect one

To marry and to grow old with

 

Even when my new lover and I

Were intertwined and lost in pleasing each other

Experiencing more joy and completeness than I had ever known

I wondered

What it might have been like with you instead

 

Maybe though when I look back now

It makes a lot more sense that you never loved me

All you would have really seen of me

Was my bitter, depressed and obnoxious, foul-mouthed

Teenage side

 

But part of me held out hope

That you saw something in me

When we worked our after-school jobs side by side

Or when we shared the beauty of Shakespeare in school

I held out hope

You really had seen something in me

That I never even saw in myself.

 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Leif Gregersen

God of All Creation

DSC_0037THIS IS THE PHOTO (ROUGHLY) THAT APPEARED IN THE EDMONTON SUN NEWSPAPER

     Hello Dear Readers!  Well, I am in a good mood today.  I have been given a wonderful opportunity to work for the Schizophrenia Society as a presenter of my own lived experience with mental illness.  Basically I wrote a speech and now and then I get asked to give talks to different groups.  Last night I presented to a family wellness group and it went so well.  The talk kind of ran for a long time, but people seemed pretty responsive.  I should note that for a long time I have been working a job I love as a stage hand, but it has slowly gotten to be almost too much for me.  Now, I have this job with the Society and I am able to utilize all of my knowledge and skills (and a little bit of bravery-public speaking can be difficult at times!)  Not to mention that on some occasions I am given permission to bring and sell and sign books.  I get so much better response for my book sales when I do something like this, last night I sold three copies of “Inching Back To Sane” which is a lot considering at (a)there were only 10 people there to present to, and (b)at a book signing at a book store the other day I sat for five hours and sold just one book!

Another thing that I am finding is that as I meet with people and share about my illness, I am learning a lot about new coping strategies, new events and generally helping my condition a lot.  The lady who runs the Edmonton office of the Society seems to be impressed with me and has asked that I write a special speech for a fundraiser they are having in the fall, I am really excited about it.

I don’t know how much I have shared about it, but I recently completed a ‘Wellness Recovery Action Plan’ or WRAP course and I am hoping that I will be able to become a facilitator for this group in the new year.  For anyone that doesn’t have knowledge of it, I suggest you Google the name and also look for information about Mary Ellen Copeland, she has developed this method of becoming aware of the things that help get you through a bad day or a serious crisis and also making plans that you can share with others for what to do if you end up in crisis and many more things.  There is actually a ‘WRAP app’ on iPhone and Android where you can access on your smartphone all of your lists and even email them to anyone you feel might need them, say your therapist or doctor or health care worker or even family member or friend.  Just the other day I was feeling a bit out of sorts, possibly because I had been getting out in the hot sun a little too much and it wasn’t doing my mental health much good.  I opened up my ‘WRAP app’ and went through a list of things that I knew would make me feel better.  One of them of course is reading, and I picked up some light material and got myself through a time when I may have felt so ‘ill’ that I had to contact my Doctor or Nurse or put pressure on a family member to try and help me.  There are courses and books out there that I think could be very beneficial.

Another resource I wanted to mention was a thing I found on YouTube, called ‘guided meditation’.  There is this one video that comes up that shows an orange sunset over waves and in the video the announcer talks you through some deep breathing and relaxation techniques, and I swear it is better than a hot bath with epsom salts for relaxing you.  A large part of the video is just the sounds of waves gently crashing on a beach and it takes me back to times when I was in Honolulu near Waikiki Beach and I couldn’t sleep so I took a walk and then just sat on a park bench sipping a milkshake and listened to the waves, thinking to myself how incredibly cool it was that I was out on the cusp of thousands of miles of water.  It was such a powerful experience.  Anyhow, if you scroll past today’s second picture below you will find a poem, and below that in the previous blog I wrote you can find a YouTube link to a video I made of a nearby national park situated on the Alberta side of the Rocky Mountains.  I hope all of you are well, please email or comment if there is any information you want to see on this website or even just want to say hi.  viking3082000@yahoo.com

Take care!

DSC_0077        THERE HE IS AGAIN!  THE MAN WITH THE HAT!

 

Goldilocks Princess

 

Often when times seem unfair and way too rough

I steel myself and try to be strong and tough

But hidden deep down inside my mind

I long for days when the world was more kind

 

As a boy happiness was everywhere

I received so much dear love and care

My Mom and Dad would do all the worrying for me

And I was free to just live and play and be

 

But when that young boy reached the age to become a man

No one seemed to want to help or give a hand

I soon realized I had to make my own way

Work all day with no time left over to play

 

I still remember when I first cooked my own meals

Trying to understand the bus because I had no wheels

Waking up each day to work and try and build a life

Hoping somehow to meet someone to be my wife

 

And then so many awful things got in the way

It was all I could do just to make it through each day

Some people learned I was giving and kind and cleaned me out

But I know there are still good people, of this I have no doubt

 

And then after a time came the miracle that changed it all

My sister had a baby, so precious, adorable and small

I love her now just as though she were my own

And pray she never has to be alone or leave her home

 

I so much wish that she never wants or needs

I’ll work for her wellbeing until my fingers bleed

And then something that makes me feel a little shy

Is that she loves me back so dearly and I don’t know why

 

I’m just a simple writer, a lonely ageing man

Trying to do the most for those I love that I can

Nothing sweeter than to hear a little child say

I miss you when you are so far away

 

But in just a couple of weeks I will see her once more

Closer to her adulthood than ever before

I will take a flight to her family’s big city home

And I know she will inspire many more poems

 

The emotion a young one inspires is so wild

I sometimes wish she were forever a child

But she will grow and take her place all in due time

For now though she is sweet loving child so kind

 

And so with these words I hope I touch your heart

Remind you to love your family and never depart

Because my little miracle saved me from pain and despair

My own goldilocks Princess with so much love to share

 

Leif Gregersen

July 8, 2015

A Blog and a Poem For Brian and the Work He Does

DSC_0067This is basically the busiest place in North Western Canada.  Calgary to the South and Vancouver to the South-West may rival it, but this is the Alpha and the Omega of what happens in the North.

     Good morning dear readers.  Just to let you know early, for those of you who like my poems, I have written one today and will be posting just under the last photo in today’s blog.  Kind of a funny thing, I thought I did a pretty good job of writing a blog yesterday, but I didn’t get too many views.  I don’t know if I am getting boring or if I am just not using the most optimal tags.  There is also the fact that the weather has been gorgeous and sunny over a lot of the places I get hits.

So today is going to be a bit of a lukewarm blog.  It is just past 4:00am and I can’t sleep so I decided this might be a good time to foster up some creativity.  Oh, before I forget, anyone who likes is totally free to email me about this blog or anything else at: viking3082000@yahoo.com I hope you do whenever you get the chance.

So yesterday I was involved in a music festival right in my neighborhood at a small park in what we call little Italy.  Some of the music was really amazing and I was given the opportunity to go up on stage and read my poetry.  I often wonder where poetry will take me, I love to write it but I seem to lapse into the same kind of style a lot.  I will leave you my dear readers to judge and let you know that I would appreciate any honest feedback I can get.

The outdoor festival was amazing, I had a table set up with books and though I didn’t sell too many, I was interviewed by a TV station and I ran into the candidate I am supporting for the next Federal election in Canada which happens in October.  She is an incredible, energetic, community minded, hard working and very nice young woman.  She is with a party called “The New Democratic Party” or NDP which is a left-leaning party that swept the Alberta elections just a few short weeks ago and has left a lot of people very excited at the direction things are going to go for Albertans.  It is my personal hope that more will be done for the mentally ill in the way of funding for hospital facilities and possibly even disability pensions, though I have to admit that I already get kind of a generous one.

So what does a person do when they can’t sleep?  I hear the dyslexic insomniac stays up all night wondering if there really is a dog.  Okay, that was pretty sick, but you snickered a bit didn’t you?  I heard another pretty good one from my good friend James Derksen.  He has this book that publishes contest winners who are asked to write in with their absolute worst novel beginnings.  In one of them there was a paragraph:  “Mr. Van Gogh, I suggest you consider painting as a career because you clearly have no ear for music!”  Okay, I will stop there.

Saturday night I decided to do some more serious reading and I picked up a book I had received in the mail from amazon a few days ago.  It is called “The Depression Workbook” and it is giving me a lot of interesting ideas.  It is written by the woman who founded the course that I am taking which is called WRAP, or Wellness Recovery Action Plan.  I have been reading about a lot of interesting new ideas, some that I support, some I have a hard time swallowing.  One of them is a statement that I would have been very reluctant to accept ten years ago which states that only you can be an expert on your condition.  Doctors can help, but they don’t know which medication really makes you feel better or worse, you have to do your part.  Another thing that I already know but really want to look into is having tests to see if my moods go up and down as a result of hormone deficiencies.  I seriously doubt my Doctor has been wrong about me having Bipolar all these years but I think it might be a good idea.

It is funny to think back to some of my first days in the mental hospital when I was still a teenager.  They doped me up like crazy and my mind was all over the place.  It didn’t help that I hated everything about Psychiatry including the Psychiatrists even though a lot of these people were doing everything they could to help me.  One of the reasons I think I felt this way had to do with how the initial staff that I encountered in going to the hospital treated me.  The people on the lock-down ward I went to first were brutal.  There was this one male nurse who once slammed my face into a hard floor and put me into a wrestling hold while someone arbitrarily decided I could use a shot of some evil tranquilizer that made my muscles lock up.  By the time I got to see the Psychiatrist, I had very little faith in anything he had to say.  The funny thing is that my Doctor in that locked ward right on the first time I went into the mental hospital is my Doctor to this day, now 25 years later.

I am learning a lot from this Wellness Recovery Action Plan.  Little things like making sure people know which Doctors you don’t want to deal with and which hospital you want to go to.  I had kind of thought that I would never need to go back in the hospital, but a lot of circumstances could put me in there.  Having a plan, and possibly even having a bag packed could help a lot.  Last time I was in the hospital I had to wear the same clothes for months and had nothing from home.  I went through the humiliation of swapping blue jeans with a guy because they wouldn’t give me a belt and my pants were literally falling off me (I wasn’t eating much either).  It seemed the cruelty and inhuman treatment was constant.  I have to say though that the mental hospital I was in was really a beautiful place.  No matter where I went, no matter how sick I got, no matter what happened to me, somehow I would end up back there and I would end up better.  Sometimes it felt really awful in there, but it had more to do with me being very mentally ill.

It’s a weird thing but it almost seemed like the staff and others could see right in my eyes whether I was delusional or not.  What bugs me the most is that while I was there the people on the staff made me out to be some kind of monster.  Quite often other patients had picked fights with me and I did the bare minimum I had to do to defend myself and then I heard later that the nurses were trying to convince those people to have me charged.  There were a lot of stories like that, one of them had to do with this female nurse who said she would pick me up a cassette walkman for me and she kept coming back to me and asking for more money for it.  They would seize my property and give it to others, and one time they actually tried to force an end to a friendship I had made in the hospital.  And this didn’t come from the top, this was a decision made by some random nurse, not even the head nurse.  “I have already told her to stay away from you.” she told me.  Then others would get angry when I joked around with people and act appalled that I wasn’t making friends with other people.  It really is something I wish on no one and sometimes I think I would like to blow that place up and build a proper place for people who have illnesses to be treated like human beings.

Anyhow, that is how it goes, I have been trying so hard to redirect my thoughts when I get into rants or dredge up old memories.  I have been using a relaxation video from YouTube, one I posted a few days ago and it seems to be helping.  I think what I really need to do is to take a proper meditation class and learn how to be more mindful of my surroundings and less mindful of things in the past that I can’t change and only make me upset.  Enjoy the poem Dear Readers, write soon!

Leif Gregersen

DSC_0016 2Construction has always fascinated me, the very idea of building something that will mean so much to the inhabitants or employees in it, the idea of creating something solid and permanent.  The other day I worked building a local hockey rink and I am hoping the puck boards I set up will last through many a fun game played by local kids.

 

Hope Mission

 

Today I saw a sight that broke my heart

So many downtrodden men with lives all torn apart

As I saw them around me tears welled up in my eyes

For once I didn’t want to wear my tough guy disguise

 

These homeless men were lining up to sleep upon a floor

A guard was checking for weapons or booze right at the door

One poor soul had neither socks or shoes

Someone was saying Jesus dying was good news

 

I how I wish I knew a way to really help these men

Without putting myself in their very situation once again

Yes, a few years ago I had no place to call home

Sick and lost and wandering the streets alone

 

By love and luck and friendship I somehow overcame

Oh my sweet God in heaven let these men somehow do the same

And let me be your instrument to help them in some way

I don’t want to think I couldn’t even stop to pray

 

So many came here when we put out the call

That there was money here and plenty of jobs for all

For a time here things did look pretty good

But things never seem to change in this neighborhood

 

Though now a sweeping change is bringing hope

Of giving those who have nothing enough to cope

I wish with all my spirit one day these men have much much more

Than getting just a little bit of money and then being shown the door

 

As well as stomachs, these men need to fill their souls hearts and mind

With the hope of dignity and self-reliance they themselves find

Some of the wisest words I know of would be a perfect start

“Every one of us has a God-shaped hole inside our heart.”

 

Leif Gregersen

June 8, 2015

The Days That Lit The Fires I Was Forged In

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Good morning dear readers!  Well, it is an interesting time for me today.  As anyone who has read much of my work knows, I have a bit of an obsession for the military.  I have always found war and armies, and especially World War Two very fascinating.  As a young kid I remember once being very afraid of global nuclear war and war movies scared me, but as I got older I changed in that regard.  I remember being around 11 or so and our local mall had a military display up and my brother seemed really knowledgeable about land mines and other means of harming human life.  This gave me such a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that I think I had nightmares for a while, I know I remember the day vividly though it was 30 plus years ago.  But when I was 12 my parents decided to put me into Air Cadets and I simply loved it.  I don’t like to say I served or anything, though I did do a lot of unpaid work, because I really enjoyed being who I was in Air Cadets, it had little to do with giving something to your country as it was about making you into something better.  I got so much out of cadets it was almost as thought they served me.  I was a top achiever and something of a leader as I made it up to the rank of Sergeant.  At the age of 15 I was influenced a lot by some left wingers and ended up leaving cadets, but at 18 I had come full circle once more and tried to join the military.  For some reason I always had it in the back of my mind that I would still join up, still run off somewhere and sign my life away.  I even had a dream with some of my old cadet friends in it just a couple of days ago where I had it in mind that I was going to go ‘back in’ if I can say that.  But now, two things have happened.  First, I had the honor of having some of my writing published in a magazine made for the Canadian Military, about a forgotten battle that took place during the Korean War, and second, I have found out that the military will not take a person over age 42.  Being 43 I can now rest easy that I will sit out the next major conflict in peace.  This seems pretty trivial, but a lot of people I was in cadets with who were in the military or even just the cadets were often calculating the time until they could no longer be called up.  Another thing that I should mention is that I have some friends who did go into the military and had a completely negative experience.  One guy that is no longer a friend got into trouble and spent 2 years in a military prison.  Another friend was telling me about the fact that a great deal of people in the military suffer from mental illness, be it depression or PTSD or other things.  So in a small way I am kind of glad that even if I wanted to I would no longer be called up.

I wish I could write more about mental illness in the military, but I really don’t know enough about the topic.  As far as my own mental health goes, which is really all I can honestly report on in this blog or otherwise, I am in kind of a poor state right now.  The main thing is that I have had a bad cold and have been laying around the house more than usual and not getting any type of writing done.  For me, sleeping too much and not getting up to do things can be very negative, even when I am taking the proper dose of my medications and taking them on time.  I found myself thinking about life in general very negatively.  I am having a bit of a problem because I don’t think I will be able to work my stage hand job anymore, although I have had some offers of things that could replace the lost income.  I am taking this Wellness Recovery Action Plan course which may lead to some paid work, and I have been giving talks for the Schizophrenia Society which pays a little and sometimes includes book sales and I am also going to be teaching a writing class in June which will bring in a few bucks.  I am really going to miss my stage hand job though, but the fact is I just don’t think I should do it at all anymore.  It is very taxing physically, it can be dangerous, and it often causes me a lot of stress not only from the pace we have to work at but also with the way the schedule goes.  I feel really fortunate that I have the option to scale this back while I try to fill in the blanks with other things.  All I can really say to anyone who doesn’t want to find themselves in this situation is to get as much training and education as you can in something you know you can do for a long time, and save as much money as you can.  You never really know when an illness or a situation can put you out of work.  One of my problems right now is that I tend to spend all the money I get in a given month.  This has been getting better lately as I have been keeping myself busy but I know that when a dry patch comes along I will be suffering again, trying to sell things I don’t need and going into shopaholic withdrawl.  The good thing is that if you do have this problem and can force yourself to shop less for what you don’t need and make the most out of the things you have and things that are free (going for walks, using the library, getting involved in your community by volunteering) it only takes a short time before you can re-program yourself to change your habits.  Anyhow, if I can be of any help via email, please let me know, as always, I can be reached at viking3082000@yahoo.com  scroll down past the below photo for today’s poem.

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My Father, My Dad

 

 

My father, my father

Whose name I now bear

Who I once loved so very much

As I sat beside your recliner

In my own small chair

You were my best friend for so many years

 

My father, my dad

Playing chess with you

Eating your crackers and cheese

Wearing that shirt that was just like one of yours

Feeling such love as you read to us kids

 

My dad

I kept going to your barber

And wearing clothes that you liked

Long after it was no longer cool

To have hair or clothes like that at school

 

My dad, my father

So much to me in my later years

More than a parent and friend

After mom passed

Why did you drink so much before

Scream and fight with me in my teen years so much?

 

My dad

It seemed when I was a boy not a day went past

Without me ending up in tears

Feeling unloved and uncared for

It seemed to surprise you

That I went insane

And was put into an institution for a long time

 

My father

When I left that horrible place

You had no room for me

I had nowhere to go

Still you called in the police

Had me arrested for trespassing

In the only home I had ever known

 

So much anger

So much love

So much craziness

Sometimes I dream about you

Kick at the air

In real life I’m kicking the wall

One day you will get old all at once

Pass on

And I will once again shed real tears for you

And for the father that I never really knew

My father, my father, my dad

 

 

May 24, 2015